Men’s water polo is different this year. For one thing, they have a coach, as opposed to previous years when the captains wrote and ran practices.
After four years on the team, Jon Wiener ’02 remains in Williamstown and takes on the challenge of coaching a very young team. The Ephs lost nine players from last year and have the benefit of only two starters returning from last year.
Nevertheless, Wiener has confidence in both the returning players and the new ones. Enough, it seems, to set the team’s goals high: winning the New England Division and thereby earn a trip to California and the National Collegiate Club Championships in November.
This means beating polo powerhouses Dartmouth and Yale in the New England Division Championships in October, but Wiener says his men are up for the challenge.
The team is led this year by Dickie Lammert ’03, Nate Krissoff ’03 and Dave Arnolds ’04. All three have been playing polo since their freshman years and Lammert has been All-Conference for the past three seasons. “The captains are doing a great job,” Wiener said. “They are very committed to our goal of going to Nationals.”
New to Williams polo this year are Will Cunningham ’06, Brad Brecher ’06, Brian Carey ’06 and Zach Orjuela ’06.
Cunningham looks especially strong. “He’ll be pretty much unstoppable one-on-one,” Wiener said. “He’s just so big and you want a big guy in there who can take a lot of beating.”
Cunningham will be playing the hole set position along with Jonathan “Gunner” Loveless ’05, another strong player Wiener convinced to come back for another year on the team.
Also returning to Williams polo for the last time are Chris Kelley ’03 and Fulton Breen ’03. Kam Shahid ’04 is in goal as the first new polo goalie in two years. The whole defense will be based around him, which allows for some creative tactics, essential if Williams wants to win New Englands.
The large number of tournaments scheduled for this season will help the Ephs gain the experience that will doubtless prove crucial to achieving their goals.
The team is entered in four tournaments thus far, the biggest number in Williams polo history, and hope to add three more games to the calendar soon.
The road to California started with a trip to Boston on the Sept. 14 for the Ephs’ first tournament against varsity teams: the Harvard A and B squads and the team from Brown.
The tough opposition highlighted some of the weaknesses the team will be working on in the coming weeks.
“We couldn’t handle the ball very well,” Wiener said. “We were faster than Brown, but we need to learn how to handle that speed. We can’t be sprinting up and down the pool all the time.”
Although the tournament ended with Williams losing to all three, Wiener is glad they went and played the varsity teams. “Seeing that level of competition is only going to help us,” he said.
The Ephmen suffered from various injuries the whole tournament. Lammert’s shoulder injury prevented him from playing against Harvard B. Shahid sat out that same game because of bad knees. Nevertheless, Williams scored six goals against the second Harvard team, with Cunningham and Krissoff as top scorers.
Cunningham was the leading scorer again during the Harvard A game, contributing five of the six Eph goals, with the first three on four-meter penalty shots. Eric Hagyard ’04 had the sixth. The game was tied up at 3-3 by halftime against Brown, but the second half saw the Bears pulling ahead to secure the win.
Despite the losses, Wiener called the tournament an impressive debut for Cunningham. “[It was] similar to the one Lammert had when he was a freshman and scored seven goals against Amherst,” Wiener said. “He then helped us beat Dartmouth at Dartmouth for which he got Athlete of the Week in the Record.”
Last year the Ephs fell just two goals short of beating Dartmouth for the New England Division Championship title, but that still put them ahead of Yale in the division rankings.
Williams has also not lost to a NESCAC opponent in four years. “For a New England liberal arts school of barely 2000 students, I don’t know if people realize how successful we actually are,” Weiner said.
And success is a priority this season for Wiener and the Ephmen, in and out of the pool. “You can measure success in terms of wins and losses, the level of commitment from the players, support from the school, popularity of the sport among the student body. I want to be able to say I left the program better than I found it,” Wiener said. “And besides, it is great to be back at Williams without the classes.”